Weddings at Cape Hatteras National Seashore
A Special Use Permit is required for all wedding ceremonies and vow renewals within Cape Hatteras National Seashore, regardless of the number of attendees or length of the ceremony.
Additional information about wedding locations is provided below.
Types of Wedding / Vow Renewal Permits
Two types of wedding / vow renewal permits are available. One for small, simple weddings and another for larger weddings and weddings with chairs.
The non-refundable application fee covers the cost of administering the permit request.
Please submit your application at least 45 days before your requested date. You will receive a response regarding your application within two weeks of receipt.
Wedding Locations at Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Certain areas of the National Seashore are better suited for wedding ceremonies than others, particularly given the limited parking resources available within the park. Our three lighthouses have different parking space availability. Please note that all of our sites are for wedding ceremonies only; we have no facilities for receptions. However, there are a number of such facilities available privately. Please check some of the links provided below. During nesting and breeding season (spring and summer), some sections of the beaches may be closed to visitors and vehicles to protect nesting species. Given the size of the Seashore, (over 30,000 acres), wedding parties are always able to find a suitable spot for the ceremony. Here are some suggestions:
Bodie Island Lighthouse
Situated approximately eight miles south of Nags Head, NC, this is perhaps the most accessible of the park's lighthouses for most visitors. The site includes a nice expansive grassy area, parking facilities for up 50 cars and restroom facilities. This is ideally suited for larger wedding parties. From the third (3rd) Friday in April until Columbus Day, permits will only be issued for weddings occurring before 9:00 AM or after 5:00 PM daily. No chair or arch set-up permitted at this location.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is located in Buxton, NC. This is perhaps the most famous of all lighthouses on the Atlantic Coast, and it is the tallest. Thousands of visitors visit this lighthouse on a daily basis during the summer months. While this lighthouse is open to the public from time to time, weddings cannot be performed within the lighthouse itself or on its steps and paths. Continuous public access to the lighthouse is required at all times. Parking and restroom facilities are readily available, and this area is more suitable for larger weddings of up to 25 people. However, the area is less intimate given the great number of people visiting the lighthouse on a daily basis. From the third (3rd) Friday in April until Columbus Day, permits will only be issued for weddings occurring before 9:00 AM or after 5:00 PM daily. No chair or arch set-up at this location. Larger weddings can more easily be accommodated at the beach area just beyond the lighthouse. See the information below on Beach Areas.
Immediately south of Cape Hatteras, Ocracoke Island must be reached by ferry operated by the North Carolina Department of Transportation. Travel time by car and ferry averages about two hours from Nags Head, depending on the time of day. The ferry operates at different times during the day, and the schedule is published at the North Carolina DOT Ferry Schedule Page. Parking is extremely limited at the lighthouse, and the lighthouse itself is closed to the public. Because the area is immediately adjacent to wetlands and fragile grasses, this site is best suited for very small and intimate wedding ceremonies of three to twelve people. From the third (3rd) Friday in April until Columbus Day, permits will only be issued for weddings occurring before 9:00 AM or after 5:00 PM daily. No chair or arch set-up at this location.
There are a number of sites that are well suited for wedding ceremonies along the magnificent coastline of the Atlantic Ocean. Just north (approximately 4 miles) of the Village of Ocracoke is the day use beach area with parking spaces for 35 cars. During the summer season, it is also a lifeguarded beach. Approximately one mile north of the day use beach is the campground with parking spaces for 50 cars. And, approximately 3 miles north of that is the pony pen area with parking for 25 cars. All provide beach access and spectacular views of the ocean. No chair or arch set-up during life guard season at Ocracoke Day Use Area.
Adjacent to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse are a number of beach areas ideally suited for weddings. Entering the park and across from the visitors parking lot is a beach access that leads to a picturesque and large expanse of beach suitable for larger weddings. Most days there is adequate parking for larger numbers of people, and immediately nearby is our new restroom facility. Above that site are the stones marking the original site of the lighthouse. This area and the adjacent beach are also picturesque sites for a wedding. Past the ranger's station, follow the park road leading to the Point and a smaller parking area for approximately 15 cars. This is a beautiful and usually less populous section of beach. Most beach locations provide an excellent view of the lighthouse for special photo opportunities. No chair or arch set-up during life guard season at Old Lighthouse Beach or Frisco Beach.
Immediately east of the Bodie Island Lighthouse is the Coquina Beach Day Use Area with parking spaces for 115 cars. The beach is very popular with visitors to the seashore. Vehicles are not permitted on the beach north of the ramp access. Restroom facilities are available, during the summer and fall months. No chair or arch set-up during life guard season at Coquina Beach.
Permit Conditions and Restrictions
Permits for wedding / vow renewals at Cape Hatteras National Seashore do not allow for organized parties and receptions and are typically limited to 2 hours. Venues for receptions and parties may be available in areas of the Outer Banks outside of the seashore. Please see the links below for more information.
The following section outlines the permit conditions for wedding and vow renewals.
Permit Conditions for all Wedding / Vow Renewal Permits
Permit conditions specific to Wedding/Vow Renewal Permits with approval for chairs and other wedding equipment on the beach:
Additional Outer Banks Wedding Resources
While the National Park Service neither endorses nor promotes public or private business activities, the following sites are offered to assist you in planning your visit to the Cape Hatteras area:
Questions and Additional Information
For questions or information about permits for other types of uses, or if you have any questions about the process or your permit, please contact our Special Park Uses Coordinator at (252) 475-9034 or via e-mail to e-mail us.
Last updated: August 14, 2020